Why are knitting pattern pictures so rubbish?

knitting stripes
Woman in aran jumper and ugly trousers

She woke up hungover in a barn in 1890 and grabbed the farmer’s clothes. No other excuse for those trousers

I like to knit. Knitting is very Zen. It is hypnotic and soothing, you can do it while watching TV, so it appeals to the multi-tasking monster inside me, and – bonus – you get clothes out of it.

For the sad sacks who don’t knit, and think jumpers and gloves just appear like magic out of a pile of yarn and two pointy sticks, I need to point out that you need a pattern.

The pattern tells you how much yarn you need, what type, how many stitches to cast on, what to do with them, when to stop, when you’ve fucked it up so badly you need to unravel the whole sodding thing and start again (not bitter).

The pattern also has a nice big picture on it that shows you what the finished garment is supposed to look like.

These pictures are universally shite.

Look at some of these – would you ever want to knit anything that made you look like you just woke up naked in a stable and grabbed the first horse blanket you could see?

Woman in brown cardigan

A cardigan the colour of shite, with peach trousers. Mmmmm

Sewing patterns do not do this (yeah, I sew too, get me).

Sewing patterns are stylish, with slender models rocking the latest looks, or artist-drawn pictures of what the clothes will look like if you have a team of tailors at your disposal and can actually understand the instructions about putting in zips. Sewing pattern pictures are aspirational.

Butterick sewing pattern 6582. Who wouldn’t want to make this beauty, despite there being no photo and no-one has a 1950’s hourglass figure anymore?

Too many knitting pattern pictures look as if the knitwear has been shoved on top, like dressing a Twinkle doll in cut-out cardboard clothes with tabs to hold it in place (that dates me).

It doesn’t have to be this way. Some patterns – often from indie designers – look lovely and tempting and don’t scream I’M WEARING THIS BECAUSE SOMEONE OLD MADE IT FOR ME AND I’M TAKING IT OFF AS SOON AS THEY’VE GONE BACK TO THEIR CARE HOME.

The pink reminds me of travel sickness pills. And what’s with the foxy secretary look – in a pink short-sleeved jumper??

The thing is, most of these patterns are perfectly good designs. In the right colour, with the right clothes, without those massive brown plastic buttons you only get on home-knitted stuff, they will look OK. But you have to reimagine them.

The only way to do this is to take the pattern picture, hold it at arm’s length, squint and imagine it:

  • In a colour that isn’t lime green or diarrhoea brown.
  • On a model who isn’t 18 trying to look 70.
  • With a different background to the ‘walking across a field or standing by a barn door’ that seems to be essential if you are photographing knitwear.
  • With a model wearing normal clothes, not a tweed skirt last seen on Nancy Mitford in 1934 or some bizarre colour combination.

It can be done brilliantly, and lots of independent knitting designers come up with draw-dropping pattern photos that have you reaching for your cable needle.

Family in homemade aran cardigans

Be honest – if you saw them coming at you with that net, you’d run a mile

But a lot of the established companies (I’m looking at you, Sirdar and Wendy) have fallen way behind.

Or have they? The fact they are still going after all these years means they must be doing something right, yes?

Maybe they are appealing to a (much) older knitter, whose eyes are too feeble to see just how wince-inducing that lilac and pistachio Fair Isle jumper is.

Whoever it is, it isn’t me.

Things I Watch When I Am Ironing #8: The Walking Dead (Seasons 1 – 5)

The Walking Dead started out as perfect ironing fodder. It didn’t matter if I had to go and pull stuff off the washing line cause all I’d miss was another zombie being spiked.

But as the show went on it gradually moved, like a slowly rotting corpse, into something much darker and grittier. So much so that by the time I came to the end of Season 5 it had become my favourite Thing I Watch When I Am Knitting show – and for some episodes I didn’t get much damn knitting done.

When we started leaving old-world style relationships behind (ie: as soon as Lori bit the dust) it really took off. I couldn’t buy into the love triangle between Lori, our hero Rick and his best friend (who left him to rot in a hospital and then seduced his wife) Shane. The world was imploding around them, they were living in a tent in a layby with a load of oddballs and eating grass. Weren’t there more important things going on down?

Thankfully, despite Glenn and Maggie getting together, and Bob and Sasha having a bit of a sweet thing, there has been no cringe-making lurve scenes (I don’t count Andrea and the Governor. I don’t think they did either). It has been about loyalty, family, filthy t-shirts and very tight trousers.

Michonne turned up to the party with a sword, a hood and two pet zombies. Beats a bottle of Frascati anytime

Michonne turned up to the party with a sword, a hood and two pet zombies. Beats a bottle of Frascati anytime

And talking of the Governor, while he was a great pantomime villain (eyepatch and immunity to death as standard), things were much more complex when the bad guys were the Terminans and the Claimers and those nutters at the hospital who took Beth. They all had harrowing backstories or warped codes of ethics and more nuances than you would expect from a blood-spattered zombie-fest.

In this world, the law of consequences is a killer – literally. Forget karma. If you don’t take someone out when you have the chance you are sure as hell going to regret it. Morgan can’t bring himself to shoot his undead wife – and we find later she is the one who kills his son. Dale’s death is totally Carl’s fault, for messing with a walker, and letting the Governor live wasn’t a good move for anyone, ever. This doesn’t half mess with your humanity.

Another reason it is so compelling is that anyone could die at any time. Except Rick, obvs, because he appears on the posters for Season 6. Knowing you can lose a major character means you never relax – I was fully expecting to see Glenn go down in the finale of Season 5. And you can’t bond with new characters because you never know if they are destined to be a regular or not. Why does Moses have to die when  Tara and Rosita make it?

Kickass Carol. Don't look at the flowers on that jumper

Kickass Carol. Don’t look at the flowers on that jumper

Bits that made me drop my cable needle

  • Finding Merle’s severed, still handcuffed hand on the roof.
  • The CDC centre going into lockdown and then blowing up.
  • Carl getting shot straight after seeing the stag. So there is still beauty in this world? Nope.
  • Shane reanimating without being bitten. WTF? Did I miss something? Combined with the revelation of what Dr Lister had whispered to Rick, this was jawdropping.
  • The first apperance of Michonne, hooded, with a katana and two chained, armless walkers. Bloody awesome image.
  • The Governor killing Martinez, proving he wasn’t redeemed at all, despite calling himself Brian.
  • Beth getting shot. A perplexing surprise.
  • Rick biting out Joe’s throat. He didn’t see that coming.
  • Bob telling the Terminans they were eating infected flesh after waking up to find they’d barbecued his foot. Right back at ya there.
  • Moses dying in the revolving door. This was horrible. He was a great character, with a strong back story. The revolving door was a brilliant idea and Glenn watching him die through the glass was too harrowing.
  • Carol’s flowery jumper in Alexandria. It was hideous.

Bits that made me throw my stitch holders at the screen

  • Lori telling Andrea that ladies don’t shoot, they do the laundry and the cooking. Waytogo Lori.
  • Beth singing miserable songs. How about a version of Knees Up Mother Brown to cheer everyone up, eh Beth?
  • Beth’s odd and pointless death. Why’d she stab Dawn? Why’d Dawn shoot her? (I read later the Beth actress had a singing career to pursue).
  • Everyone believing Eugene was a top scientists despite his cowboy accent and totally unscientific hairstyle.
  • Bizarre domestic violence plotline at Alexandria. Failed to engage or even interest me.
  • Aiden and his crummy chum Nicholas at Alexandria being dangerous arseholes and no-one talking about it or apparently believing Glenn and Eugene. Infuriating plotline.
Terminus - don't go there. Seriously. DON'T GO THERE

Terminus – don’t go there. Seriously. DON’T GO THERE

Bits that made me cry into my tension swatch

  • Carol telling Lizzie to ‘look at the flowers’ before shooting her. I mean, that whole episode. Sob.
  • Tyreese’s death. That whole episode. More sob.

Things that make me lose track when I am counting stitches

  • The superclean, fully stocked chapel of rest where Beth and Daryl stayed. Who looked after it? Where did they get the bargain bottles of cola from?
  • The hermit in the woods who threatened to call the cops. Had he really been asleep all those months, with a dead dog in the room, and no idea there was a zombie apocalypse going on?
  • The hitchhiker outside the prison they ignored, then stole his bag once zombies had taken him down. He had managed to get that far, alone, and they let him die. That still bothers me.
  • The one-eyed dog at the chapel of rest. I hope it’s ok.